Banking in China

When it comes to banking in China, it can be a real challenge.

Repatriation

When repatriating money back to Ireland outside of China you have several options.

  1. 500 USD per day through your Chinese Bank.
  2. Repatriate more than 500 USD limit, by showing proof to your Chinese Bank that you have paid tax on the money. This is subject to an annual limit of 50,000 USD per annum.
  3. PayPal – This will mean that you will have to setup two PayPal accounts one in China linked to your Chinese card and one outside of China in Ireland linked to an Irish card for instance, and then send money between these two accounts. The fees are typically quite high.
  4. Western Union – This only allows you to convert CNY to USD, and a very common pain point is that often a relative has to physically go into a Western Union branch in Ireland to retrieve the funds repatriated.
  5. Fly out with cash, subject to a limit of 10,000 Euros.
  6. Currency Management Companies – typically a better fit if you are trying to move larger sums of money, the fees can often mean that their solutions are not feasible for smaller sums of money.
  7. Find and make use of UnionPay ATMs back home or in Europe, subject to limits on withdrawals.

9. Chinese “Credit” Card

The vast majority of people who open a bank account when they move to China are issued with a UnionPay card. The issue for westerners with this type of card is that when they travel or try to use these UnionPay cards in their home country, UnionPay’s network of ATM’s is much more limited than Visa or MasterCard’s which makes spending or indeed withdrawing your CNY while on holidays or back in Ireland much more difficult .

For those foreigners who may have lived in China for a long time the rules around getting a Chinese Credit Card or indeed Chinese Debit Card with a Visa or MasterCard symbol used to be much more lax. Many expatriates across the country have Chinese bank cards on a legacy basis from this time.

Furthermore, there is yet another category again of expatriates who work in firms so large that essentially they will be able to apply for and get a Chinese Credit Card on the basis their firm provide’s a guarantee to the bank. This is really only applicable to fortune 500 companies.

If you you find yourself in neither of the above two categories there is still one option available and that is to apply with China Construction Bank. China Construction Bank have one branch in Shanghai on Huaihai Road whereby as a foreigner you can apply for and get Chinese Credit Card or Debit Card with a Visa symbol on it. The bank will ask you to put down a fixed deposit of at least 5,000 CNY and this will act as a guarantee. On this amount they will allow you spending power of between 60-80% depending on how much you put down as a fixed deposit. Any spending on this card can then be paid back using CNY.

Why would you want this type of card?

You globalise your money, if you travel and pay for goods and services using your Chinese Credit Card you will be charged very competitive exchange rates by your China Construction Bank – and you will be able to repay what is spent using your CNY salary. If you go back to Ireland you can use the card at every ATM. You could use the card to pay off a mortgage or loan in Ireland OR one could fund a pension or investment in Euros either. In either case whether it be repayment of a loan on an Irish property or funding a pension in Euros this is one of the smoothest methods available to transfer your wealth from CNY into Euros.

Conclusion

Overall there is no, right or wrong answer as to what is the best way to repatriate your CNY back to Ireland. There is only what works for you, and could it be optimised? For many people their personal circumstances play a big role in how they send money outside of China, for instance if someone is married to a Chinese spouse then this can open up a whole slew of other options for repatriating funds. My advice would be to think about ultimately what you want to do with the money, and then build or choose your repatriation solution around that.